So I don’t want to brag – well only a little bragging – but Caribbean food is good, and due to the different cultural influences our meals often delight every single taste bud. Speaking as a Jamaican, there are certain rules that every individual must know in order to call themselves a cook.
Wash meats in vinegar or Lime Juice
Although the debate rages on about whether it is really effective or necessary; better safe than sorry I say. Washing meat is a Jamaican tradition. Honestly, watching cooking shows where they take the meat from the store package and place it straight into the pan makes me shiver. We mainly wash our meats in vinegar or lemon juice to test if the meat is still good. If the meat, particularly chicken smells “off” even after its vinegar or lemon juice bath, chances are it’s not okay to cook. Some even say that washing the meat this way also helps to tenderize it and shorten cooking time.
It is also important to remember to wash off the vinegar or lime juice before seasoning. In essence, put meat into a large enough container, pour 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar or lime juice into container with meat, add water. Stir chicken in mixture, remove chicken. Empty container, add fresh water, rinse meat again in the plain water, drain, and then proceed to seasoning.
Most of us utilise the method of marinating meats to seal in flavour but in Jamaica we take that concept a little further. A good Jamaican cook pre-seasons all his/her meats, at least a few days in advance. The best way to do this is to simply pre-season all meats as soon as they are purchased.
This is also a great way to plan meals as you season according to preparation method. In my fridge, at any given time you will find fricassee seasoned chicken, curry seasoned mutton, stew seasoned beef, oxtail, etc. Each portion ready to be defrosted and cooked. Jamaican elders swear by this method as the best means of cooking delicious flavourful meats.
Package and freeze portions
It is important to figure out the correct portion size of pre-seasoned meats to freeze. Ideally, you want to freeze 3-4 portions, to be cooked at once. Almost no one has the time to cook every day, so by cooking 3-4 portions at a time, you can gift yourself a wonderful home cooked lunch or tasty food to come home to, after a long day at the office.
In Jamaica, one of our most celebrated lunch days is Monday. This when we have “Sunday-Monday” for lunch. “Sunday-Monday” is the leftovers from our generally large Sunday Dinner that we bring for Monday’s lunch.
I don’t know why but “Sunday-Monday” tastes great. There is something about having stewed oxtail, goat or beef the day after it is cooked, where it actually tastes better than the day before. I read something about the different flavours coming together and developing a more rounded taste. Still, for whatever reason, I often cannot wait to eat my second-day leftovers.
Use all the seasonings in the world
We may actually be over-doing it here, but no Caribbean meat can be cooked without a minimum of 3-4 different types of powered seasonings and 3-4 different types of fresh herbs or vegetables.
A simple stewed chicken is not ready for the pot if it was not seasoned with at least, black pepper, chicken seasoning, all-purpose seasoning, and paprika. *One of my personal cooking tips is – I add Jerk seasoning to almost everything, it contains a nice kick that just jazzes up stews.
Then there must also be added, chopped garlic, onions, tomatoes, escallion and thyme. For this reason, I no longer add salt when seasoning my meats. I add salt during the cooking process, after tasting to see if it needs it.
So here we are, just a few Caribbean cooking tips to spice up your everyday meals.